Living Sales Excellence - Dennis Connelly's Blog

Top 12 Reasons Why Sales Methodologies Fail

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Mon, Mar 09, 2015 @ 12:03 PM

sales methodologies

 McKinsey & Company did a study and documented that 75% of solution selling efforts were considered failures after only three years. I read this statistic in a book about sales conversations and was struck by it, but perhaps not why you might think. The authors went on to make a bold leap of logic. It’s the “messaging behind the methodology” that’s the problem, they concluded.

Why did this statistic jump off the page? It wasn’t because solution selling isn’t working. We know about its limitations. It wasn’t because they said “the right messages” are the key. I am sure that a good message is important. It wasn’t because I was shocked that most sales initiatives fail. That’s why I’m in this business.

It struck me because it’s almost exactly the same statistic as the number of salespeople who suck, 74%. Maybe they were rounding; I’m not. After assessing over 800 thousand salespeople, that’s the resulting number, and has remained consistent for the last three decades. It makes sense that the weaknesses at the salesperson level would scale up to organizations more generally. Without understanding why that happens and without understanding the impact of management, most sales process implementations will be doomed to failure.

Let’s take a look at what might be going on under the hood, but I’d like to start with two quick definitions:

What is a sales process? These are the specific steps you follow on your way from a lead to a closed piece of business. What are the stages along the way? What are your milestones within each stage? How do you know you completed a stage? How does that inform your pipeline and allow you to forecast?

What is a methodology? This is how you go about executing certain steps within your process. Solution selling, for example, is a methodology that suggests that you find out what your prospect needs and present a solution from your basket of goods or services. There are many others, including some that work well depending on the specific stage of the sales process.

We know there are lots of sales processes and methodologies. It could be that your “messaging behind the methodology” is not good enough, as the book suggested, or it could be that the messaging is only an important component of the execution of the whole process. Messaging, as described, is really a methodology itself. In a sales process, messaging is most important at the beginning, when you are getting the attention of your prospect, and at the close, when you are confirming your value differential.

In both cases, you are talking about whom you help and how you help them. At the beginning, your message refers to a hypothetical person, but presumably one just like your prospect with the same kinds of problems. At the end of the sales process, we’re talking about exactly your prospect, because now we have enough knowledge to do so, and furthermore, you identify the manner in which you help that highlights what your competition doesn’t have or doesn’t do well, but that your prospect needs. I believe that was the key message of the book I was reading.

Most salespeople don’t follow a process. To be precise, 90% of salespeople don’t follow a process. We know that because we asked 800,000 salespeople if they had one and 90% said they didn’t. Could that be indicative of the problem with your team? Just having a process, of course, won’t solve the problem, as the opening statistic from McKinsey pointed out. But without one, you’re wandering in a darkened Fun House at Coney Island hoping you bump into the exit door.

Most salespeople don’t use a methodology either. In my view, a good methodology should tap into what is already fundamental about selling and make it easier to follow so that everyone can use it. Dave Kurlan’s Baseline Selling, for example, accomplishes that.  Since Baseline Selling has a sales process built into it, the methodology component is comprehensive because it covers the entire process. When salespeople learn a methodology, sometimes it only covers a portion of the process.

To make matters worse, even when salespeople memorize a process and learn a methodology, they won’t necessarily execute it unless they have the skills and the underlying DNA. They might have to remove psychological barriers and other hidden weaknesses to clear the path. To learn more about this phenomenon, read this excellent article by Dave Kurlan.

So if most salespeople don’t have a sales process and don’t use a methodology, or if they do, it’s incomplete, and if most salespeople are missing important skills or have hidden weaknesses that prevent success, the fact that 74% of salespeople suck should be believable. As you might have guessed, that number isn’t a guess; it comes from those same 800,000 salespeople assessed by Objective Management Group, covering some 140 million data points.

It’s not enough to point out the failure of an incomplete and probably poorly executed launch of a methodology like “solution selling” and declare that messaging is the answer. There could be lots of other reasons for the failure rate.

Here are my Top 12 Reasons that Sales Methodologies Fail

  1. Leadership’s ability to create change
  2. Management’s impact on the sales force
  3. Inappropriate or incomplete methodologies
  4. Incomplete sales process
  5. Not following a sales process
  6. Too many skill gaps
  7. Hidden weaknesses
  8. Not enough training
  9. No reinforcement
  10. Ineffective coaching or simply not enough coaching
  11. No follow-through
  12. Lack of accountability

An evaluation of your sales team would reveal why your sales aren’t improving as much as you believe they could be.  It might be, after all, how you are messaging. It’s more likely, however, that it’s not that simple.

The first step is gaining an understanding of what is required to get your desired outcome. The next step is finding out what is standing in the way. We don’t have to guess, and we don't necessarily have to add a complicated message that only the elite 6% can execute. It’s best to measure precisely what is needed and construct a plan that results in a team that, regardless of your message, knows how to find a way to close more deals, faster.

By improving your sales force so that the bottom 74% are trained up or out; and by improving management to effectively recruit, coach, motivate, and hold people accountable; and by selecting the right processes and methodologies for your business, it’s much more likely that you won’t find yourself among the 75% in the graveyard of failed initiatives.

Topics: Hidden Weaknesses, sales process, sales methodology, sales management, sales evaluation, sales skill gaps

Sales Process Gone Wrong or A Negotiation Tactic?

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Tue, Jun 17, 2014 @ 12:06 PM

28604675 s Negotiating TimeToCloseThere are critical moments when many deals fall apart. It’s after you’ve gone through the whole sales process, have a proposal on the table, believe you have the right solution, and believe your prospect knows it. Suddenly, they throw a curve ball. “This is twice what we want to spend. Money’s tight this year and we just can’t do it at this price.” You scratch your head, “Where did I go wrong?” Failure to proceed, at this critical moment, the right way is likely to kill this deal.

Many sales professionals reading the above might be thinking, “You failed to find the budget. You didn’t do a trial close. Your ROI (return on investment) wasn’t large enough,” or some variation of, “You screwed up, silly. This is your fault.” But you’d be right…and wrong. You're right that it might have been possible to avoid this in the first place. But it might be that there something else going on.

Then you might be thinking, “Well, they just don’t like you. They want to bow out gracefully. You missed an important part of their buying process or overlooked key internal politics.” All very possible indeed, and you might not find that out until this deal is either won or lost – until the last phone call is made.

These are the moments where laziness and complacency lose. This is the moment when you need to look carefully at your schedule and figure out what you can move, because this is time sensitive. If you’re confident you've done everything right, then you are not dealing with a normal objection; you are dealing with a negotiator, and they just signaled that it’s time to close the deal.

It’s important to learn and understand the distinction between an objection and its close cousin, a negotiation. It is precisely your understanding of the mechanics of the sales process that will guide you. Executed properly, one must have faith in the process. Run through the checklist. Figure out if you missed anything. Read the cues from your prospect. Where are they coming from? What’s in their tone?

I’ve worked with a client recently who heard the phrase, “You’re really not treating me fairly, and I don’t like it. Who at your company put you up to this? Was it the president?” And they went on to close that deal. How?

An objection is a deflection. Treat it like an opinion. Don’t get caught up in it or there will be no end to them. As Dave Kurlan points out, an objection often comes when you are too close to closing the deal for comfort, in the mind of the prospect. Read his excellent article on the subject here

Objections throw you off track, put you on the defensive, weaken your position, and are meant to delay the process. In a negotiation, your prospect wants to do all of that and extract something from you.

Let’s get back to our example, “You’re not treating me fairly.” Inexperience or the tendency to get emotionally involved might lead you to defend yourself. “We don’t mis-treat people around here.” Big mistake. And this is why deals at this stage are often lost. Don’t get defensive. Don’t defend. Don’t convince them that they are wrong about you. The essence of getting too emotionally involved is getting yourself caught up in what you are going to say. Read another article by Dave Kurlan about getting emotionally involved, here. It’s when the chatter inside your head drowns out your prospect. You cannot properly hear them, and you lose control of the process.

Here is just one example of a response that might work better. “I’m sorry you feel that way. This is the solution that will work for you. Anything short won’t work and you’ll be wasting money.” Treat the harsh words like an objection and acknowledge their opinion. As soon as you feel accused, you’ve lost. Stay in control. If you’re right about this deal, then the response above does two things: 1) You avoided a battle you can only lose; and 2) You remained steadfast and gave them a reason to say ‘yes.’

There is a delicate moment here. If you even start down the road of defending the accusation, you’ve created a new environment where that concern must now be resolved before you can work together. By letting it run off your back and moving on, it might not need to be further addressed.

In these final moments of negotiation, it is important to stay on top of it. They’ve given you an indication that this deal will get done in the next couple of days by lobbing out something provocative. It is the time to focus and drive through a final deal. In this example, an agreement was reached the next day for a number close to the original proposal.

 

Can your people do this?

Can they recognize a negotiation for what it is?

Can they consistently “handle” objections properly?

Can they stay emotionally uninvolved and maintain control?

Will they roll up their sleeves and finish the deal?

Are they too complacent?

Do they have ‘need for approval’ getting in their way?

Do they have the necessary closing skills?

Do you have the right sales people?

How effectively does sales management coach through this process?

 

A sales force evaluation would answer these questions among many others. And to learn more about sales force selection, download this white paper. If you believe your sales force could or should be performing significantly better than they are, and want to chat about that, send me an email.

 

Photo Credit: Copyright alphaspirit / 123RF Stock Photo

Topics: Emotionally Involved, Hidden Weaknesses, sales management, sales leadership, sales evaluation, negotiation, screwed

Marketing and Sales Feedback Loop Can Help You Grow

Posted by Dennis Connelly on Thu, Jan 16, 2014 @ 12:01 PM

JackLambertI was recently at a marketing conference where the main theme was Inbound.  Thanks to Brian Halligan at Hubspot, “inbound” is now almost a household word.  He put a name to what is surely one of the more powerful phenomena shaping the business environment, and by extension the selling environment, today.  For the record, the conference to which I'm referring was not Hubspot’s own "Inbound13" held last fall.  At that event, the recurring theme was “Be Remarkable” and it was best embodied in Seth Godin’s brilliant keynote address.

The two recurring themes heard most at this other event, were that inbound marketing was, on average, bringing prospects 70 percent of the way to the sale, and that companies did better when technology people worked closely with the marketing department.  Each of these statements is true.  Yet each has a glaring hole.  You might have heard this before, but just because we know tomatoes are fruit, doesn’t mean we put them in fruit salad.

Let’s take the first one first - that prospects are 70 percent of the way toward making a purchase by the time marketing hands them off to sales.  Ask yourself if you have any salespeople at your company who possess a gazillion contacts, a stuffed pipeline, and lots of meetings and conferences to attend, but only a trickle of business falling out of the end of the funnel.  Marketing is doing a better job than ever, but the elite salesperson will understand the pitfalls inherent in the overdeveloped lead.

We normally like baseball analogies here, but ‘tis the season to talk gridiron.  So imagine you’re the Cincinnati Bengals offense, Ken Anderson, in September of 1976 up against the defense of Mean Joe Greene and Jack Lambert (pictured above), et al. of the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Don't worry if you're not sure what that means. The Steelers defense that year was arguably the best in the history of the NFL. Suffice it to say that being on the Steelers 30-yard line didn’t mean much. If you were up against their defense, you probably weren't going to close the deal if you were on the 2-yard line.  Ken scored 6 points in that game.  Later in the season, he played them again and scored 3 points. Again, for the uninitiated, that's not a lot of points.

There are actually two problems when a salesperson starts on the 70-yard line.  One is that the last 30 yards is the toughest, especially when you start there, and two is that you’re simply standing on the wrong part of the field.  At 70 yards, your prospect wants a proposal, a demo, pricing, and references.  An elite salesperson will not take the bait.  It will only lead to an endless chase scene in a bad movie.  Rather, thank your marketing department and then walk your prospect back to your own 25-yard line so you can drive them down the field properly.  In today’s world of selling, the salesperson makes the difference.  Marketing is an important ticket to the game, but when everyone’s website looks the same, the difference is the salesperson.

Now for the second theme - that marketing should work more closely with the IT folks.  That rings true to me.  Collaboration is a proven business fundamental.  And while that’s a good pair, it is as important that marketing collaborate with sales continuously.  Usually, these two groups do not always see the value that each provides.  Marketing people are often flustered that salespeople aren’t closing all the business they have handed them, especially when they believe it need only be walked over to the end zone.  And sales people keep telling marketing that while leads are up, the quality of the leads are down.  Wouldn’t it be better if it worked a little more like this:

  1. Marketing focuses on perceived customer needs,
  2. Marketing builds awareness,
  3. Marketing generates leads and hands off to sales,
  4. Sales questions leads using consultative skills,
  5. Sales learns about key business issues,
  6. Sales stays alert for other market trends,
  7. Sales informs marketing about what’s truly important, and
  8. Marketing adjusts message.

There is a glorious opportunity for companies who find the synergy in their marketing and sales departments.  Working together can create an upward spiral of feedback and progress to improve the quality of your leads.  Then, it’s critical to have the right sales people under the right sales leadership to take advantage of all the opportunities.  Today’s sales people must be more than just relationship people.  They must also be able to do the following well:

  1. Listen,
  2. Ask good questions,
  3. Ask tough questions,
  4. Ask enough questions,
  5. Uncover truly compelling reasons to buy,
  6. Make appropriately-timed presentations, and
  7. Remain present and unemotional at the close.

This is a subset of the consultative skill set.  Can all of your sales people do that, every time?  Last week Frank Belzer, author of Sales Shift, wrote an important article on the Architecture of a Sales Force.  And Dave Kurlan, author of Baseline Selling, wrote a piece that you shouldn’t miss on Sales Methodologies, an often misunderstood concept.  If you’re wondering about the capabilities of your own sales force, it might be time for an evaluation.

Join me and a panel of sales experts for a powerful, one-hour webinar that will address the topics the Kurlan team has been writing about this month.  The webinar is on February 5th and we will discuss, "Leading Your Ideal Sales Force - Part 1" at 11 AM Eastern Time.

Image credit: Sports Illustrated, 1984

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Topics: Dave Kurlan, consultative, sales evaluation, sales marketing, sales enablement, sales architecture, marketing, synergy, methodology



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